The covid-19 pandemic brought forward a harsh obstacle to the ongoing environmental crusade. Landfills have been filling up with single-use masks and gloves creating double-work for workers and cleaners. While new ways of tackling the virus are flooding the market, their environmental effects are detrimental.
PPE suits, for example, are a saviour to front-line workers but come with their own devastation with the fabric waste that flows out of tailoring units and into garbage dumps. Pureliving by Lakshmi Menon is a civilian-inspired movement that aims to create simple solutions by upcycling existing waste. Pureliving aims to create awareness among the masses using simple methods of preservation and consumption of waste materials. Her initiatives can be undertaken by anybody and are easy to create.
It was while travelling to Bangalore from Kerala when she saw a family under a bridge whose naked infant slept in the sand with nothing to lie on. This sparked in her the need to create an alternative which at the time she envisioned with fabric ignited in her the need to upcycle PPE waste to easy-to-braid mattress rolls that are simple and quick to make.
Lakshmi Menon found that her time as an interior designer had equipped her with the ability to identify potential in almost any object. Front Line Covid Centres require at least 50 beds but many were falling short of this number. In addition, the mattress has to be burned after use which meant that mattresses amounting to crores of Rs were being burned daily. In Kerala alone across the 1000 Panchayats 50,000 mattresses were set on fire.
The idea solidified itself when a friend of hers whose design studio undertook production of PPE suits was overflowing with waste scraps.
Shayya Mattress: The raw material is collected from tailoring units and brought to her unit where it is laid out on wooden tables. Her team of 20 women distribute the scraps among themselves and begin to plait different bits of scrap together until it becomes a bed-roll.
The rolls have a layering of plastic that allow it to last in extreme conditions like the outdoors. This has made it ideal for it to be distributed among homeless people.
The plastic layering in the PPE scrap enables it to be washed using simple soap solution. The shayya mattress is sturdy, soft and strong allowing many people to sleep comfortably pon footpaths, under bridges, etc. The method is easy, requires very little skill or energy and is easy to learn. Lakshmi Menon has been providing online training to NGOs, students and governing bodies.
Lakshmi Menon’s solution is multi-pronged and tackles several factors in one shot. It encourages waste management through upcycling, provides economic support to unskilled, rural women and provides a vital commodity at reasonable rates. Shayya bedrolls have been distributed to FLCCs, NGOs and the homeless. Pureliving has upcycled 9000 kilos of PPE scrap to make a thousand mattresses and pillows.
It is also listed by The United Nations under best practices, an honour to an initiative that was created out of pure passion to uplift others. It was also featured in Davos by The World Economic Forum. Lakshmi Menon was greatly inspired by her mother and grandmother who taught her to notice the best in what we call waste. Besides Kerala, it is also being manufactured in Delhi. This was further amplified by Lakshmi Menon’s urge to be a part of an amplified yet sustainable solution. Lakshmi Menon. She believes that as long as humans exist so will the need for a mattress which is a basic human right to a good night’s sleep.